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Friday, April 22, 2016

City of Richmond Struggling to Catch Up on Overdue Medicaid Applications

Backlog across Virginia has resulted in millions of dollars of waste.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 10:20 AM

Richmond’s Department of Social Services is scaling a mountain of paperwork to process overdue eligibility applications for Medicaid.

The effort is needed to tackle millions of dollars in waste paid to ineligible recipients in Richmond, one of the localities in Virginia where backlogs of paperwork are causing problems.

A state report released last year found that the state and federal governments paid out anywhere from $21 million to $38 million in incorrectly allocated benefits to Virginians because of lapsed eligibility applications in 2014. That number is estimated to have grown in 2015 because the number of late renewals more than doubled to more than 87,000 that March.

Administration of the state's medicaid program cost $8 billion in state and federal funds in 2014.

Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that Richmond was one of six localities in which half of the late renewals were concentrated. In October 2014, the city’s backlog was more than 27,000, which was reduced to about 4,400 as of last month, according to the city’s Social Services Department.

Federal guidelines require that eligibility applications be reviewed for renewal every 12 months. When renewals for those who are no longer eligible for Medicaid are late, the result is excess spending. For recipients with unchanged statuses, the report found that late renewals may delay access to care.

Shunda Giles, head of the city department, says that “there was no gap in services” for its clients because of late renewals.

The report cites factors that burden both the state’s Social Services Department and those of localities, such as an influx in applications under the Affordable Care Act and federal policy changes for evaluating financial eligibility.

Virginia had an 80 percent increase in new Medicaid applications between October 2013 and September 2014, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. A new case management-system for determining eligibility was implemented in 2013 and many local departments have fewer state-funded workers.

To fix the problem, the state is allocating more money to localities to hasten renewal. This month, Richmond City Council is scheduled to formally accept $333,025 toward overtime pay for social services staff to process the applications. Giles says that the department currently has seven dedicated full-time and two temporary full-time staffers who work overtime to process the applications.

But that extra money is expected to run out by the end of May, which means that those seven employees must deal with the backlog within a 40-hour work week. Giles says that the two temporary employees are funded through July.

Giles also says that the department is hindered by the loss of $1.3 million in city funding for 21 vacancies in the benefits division of her department this fiscal year. These positions are more than 84 percent funded by the state.

Social Services isn’t the only city office hit by reductions this fiscal year. The city shifted $9 million in vacancy funding for city administration to schools, which officials say has hurt services.

Republican legislators cited the report’s findings on flaws in the Medicaid system as reasons to not expand the program’s eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Last year, Democrats countered that the General Assembly didn’t help solve the problem when it cut $4 million from a main state processing office, which led to more delays.

The report, which also found issues with fully detailing income and asset information for Medicaid recipients, is available here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Chris Hilbert Decides Against Richmond Mayoral Run

City councilman will run for re-elelction to his North Side seat.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 11:22 AM

Chris Hilbert, who publicly considered running for mayor, has announced that he will instead be seeking re-election to his North Side council seat.

Hilbert’s move came in a Twitter announcement the night before Levar Stoney made his entrance to the mayoral race.

Hilbert was one of a dozen potential candidates who attended a mayoral forum held by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

A statement from Hilbert read that he considered the city’s needs, his talents, his family and a potentially high turnover for Council seats, in making his decision.

“I have decided that I will be seeking re-election as the City Council Representative of the Northside 3rd District. Next January, the City will have at least 4 new council persons and a new Mayor,” Hilbert wrote in a statement. “It is critical that we have someone with proven leadership experience on the next council. These are serious times that call for serious people and on the job training will not do.”

Council members Kathy Graziano and Charles Samuels aren’t seeking re-election, while Jon Baliles and Michelle Mosby have announced their bids for mayor.

Holdout Candidate Levar Stoney Joins Crowded Race for Richmond Mayor

Candidate resigned as Virginia's secretary of the commonwealth last week.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:31 AM

Kevar Stoney enters the Richmond mayoral race today, saying in a statement: "We need a leader with new ideas, a new approach, and new energy -- for a new Richmond." - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • Kevar Stoney enters the Richmond mayoral race today, saying in a statement: "We need a leader with new ideas, a new approach, and new energy -- for a new Richmond."

Levar Stoney has officially jumped into the fray in the race for mayor. Stoney is in the North Side near Brookland Park now, gathering petition signatures and knocking on doors. Stoney held off on the announcement until he resigned from his post as secretary of the commonwealth last week.

The political operative, who has managed a number of Democratic campaigns throughout Virginia, has the advantage of state networking and fundraising ties. One made an appearance today: His campaign press secretary, Matt Corridoni, who worked for the presidential campaign of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

"I am running for mayor of Richmond because our city is on the rise, but we find ourselves at a crossroads,” he said in a statement from his campaign. “We cannot afford to have more of the same in City Hall. We need a new leader who will harness our momentum. We need a leader with new ideas, a new approach, and new energy -- for a new Richmond."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Developer Spurs Mass Pothole Fix in Manchester

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 3:41 PM

A riled up developer has managed to compel the city to fill some of the more than 100 street craters known to cause mayhem for drivers in Manchester.

Recently, John Gregory of Fountain Head Properties took to the streets with camera and measuring tape in hand to document the potholes within a 55-acre residential and industrial area off of Hull Street. He said that the task took four hours.

Apparently the work wasn't in vain. Another Fountainhead employee mapped out the location of the potholes for Gregory to present to the city. He asked that the worst of the street craters be filled before the combined RVA Earth Day Festival and RVA Street Art Festival on Saturday. Gregory says that Councilwoman Ellen Robertson quickly connected with the Department of Public Works to correct the problem.

“We’re excited to see the progress in just a few short weeks. Pulling this off before [the festivals] was a minor miracle,” Gregory says. “The whole community is grateful to [Robertson] and the Department of Public Works, and all of Manchester’s supporters at the city.”

Department spokeswoman Sharon North says that so far this year, the city has filled 100 potholes in industrial Manchester. Before the department received word of Robinson’s request April 13, it had filled 79 in the area.

Most of the potholes identified by Gregory fall between Hull, Maury, Second and Seventh streets, where many of Fountainhead’s tenants have complained to him about the road conditions.

Gregory says that he was fed up with the potholes because his company and other businesses and residents have put their time and money into developing the rapidly growing South Side neighborhood. [Full disclosure: Style Weekly also leases space from Fountainhead.] Gregory notes that Fountainhead has invested $100 million in multifamily residences and businesses in Manchester, including the Plant Zero Arts Center and Papa’s Pizza.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Kristen Larson Becomes Second Richmond School Board Member to Enter City Council Races

Posted By on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 at 6:04 PM

Kristen Larson is the second School Board member to file her candidacy for the City Council elections, as Richmond magazine reports. She seeks to fill the seat of Councilwoman Kathy Graziano, who is considering the possibility of retiring this term.

School Board member Kimberly Gray, who recently announced her candidacy for retiring councilman Charles Samuel’s seat, was the first School Board member to enter the race.

Larson would have much expertise entering the fray of city-schools budget negotiations. She has co-chaired the School Board’s facilities task force, which crafted a 16-plus year plan to overhaul the school division's dilapidated facilities.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Levar Stoney Resigns from State Post

He could be one step closer to a run for mayor

Posted By on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 at 5:03 PM

Levar Stoney stepped down from his post as Secretary of the Commonwealth today in a a move that could set him up to run for mayor of Richmond.

The long-time aide to Gov. Terry McAuliffe previously stated that he was considering campaigning for the position and is the most widely discussed mayoral candidate yet to join the race, some say.

Stoney told Style last week that he would “give some indication” about his intentions in late April. Since 2014, he has served as Secretary of the Commonwealth, which is a cabinet position to the Governor responsible for appointments to state boards and commissions. Concerns have been raised about the potential conflict of interest that would arise from those duties.

Those who criticize Stoney have already said that he lacks experience in city hall and would benefit from deep fundraising pockets given his long experience working for nationally-known Democrats such as John Kerry and McAuliffe.

In a statement reported by the Times-Dispatch, McAuliffe called Stoney one of his “closest advisors and friends.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Will He or Won’t He? Levar Stoney Is Holding Out on a Potential Mayor Bid

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 12:20 PM

The most widely discussed Richmond mayoral candidate who has yet to join the race says he will “give some indication” about his intentions by the end of April.

Levar Stoney, a longtime aide to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, says that he’s remained tightlipped because of his state government post. “I am currently paid by taxpayers,” he says, “and I believe that they are owed a full-time secretary of the commonwealth.”

Political analyst Bob Holsworth says that Stoney could be waiting to announce until after a reconvened session of the General Assembly on April 20. The regular legislative session officially ended March 12.

Stoney was noticeably absent from last week’s forum held by former mayor and governor L. Douglas Wilder, which brought 12 possible candidates onstage.

Wilder told the audience that Stoney declined an invitation by saying that “he didn’t feel that it was the right time to publicly announce that he was running for mayor.”

In an editorial published by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Wilder didn’t refer to Stoney by name but said that McAuliffe had voiced his support for a run by “one of his people,” and has hinted that Stoney should resign because of a conflict of interest.

“We wouldn’t want it to appear that if one supports the governor’s candidate for mayor — with money or with votes — that supporter will get appointed or reappointed to a state position or board,” Wilder wrote.

Editor's Note: This story incorrectly quotes the former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder as referring to Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney as "the man from Boston." We apologize for the error.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jack Berry Declares Run for Mayor

Pitches five-year plan to save schools.

Posted By on Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 5:43 PM

CAMPAIGN PHOTO
  • Campaign Photo

Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry plans to run for mayor, saying that he has a five-year plan to provide a continual revenue stream for schools.

As part of that plan, Berry says that a percentage of the real-estate tax should be dedicated to schools and that the division “should share in year-end surpluses” from city coffers.

Last month, Berry announced his retirement from the organization after 18 years. He says his last day will be April 30. Shortly after, news of his political aspirations came through a tweet from Venture Richmond, wishing him luck in what has become an increasingly crowded race.

Berry stresses his government experience. He was the county administrator of Hanover before starting at Venture Richmond in 1998. He's also served as deputy city manager and in other roles for the city of Richmond.

“Richmond deserves a mayor who has the experience to improve city government,” he tells Style. “I’ve worked in city government for 13 years and I believe it can be a high performing organization.”

A release from Berry’s campaign touts the names of supporters in mostly business, finance and civic affairs.

“Jack has a long history of supporting supplier diversity and minority business development,” Oliver Singleton, president of the Metropolitan Business League, says in the announcement. “That is why he was the MBL’s first non-minority member. He has my full support in his run for mayor.”

Berry also takes a swipe at Mayor Dwight Jones' security detail: “The Executive Protection Unit will be eliminated on the first day. I have a driver's license, a car and a bike, and that's all I'll need.”

City Councilman Jon Baliles and local businessman Brad Froman also declared their candidacy this week.

So far, the list of candidates also includes community activists Alan Schintzius, Rick Tatnall and Lillie Estes, as well as City Council President Michelle Mosby, Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold, former councilman and architect Bruce Tyler, former delegate Joe Morrissey and architect Lawrence Williams.

Most of the candidates plan to attend a mayoral forum organized by Wilder tomorrow night. The deadline to file is June 14.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Jon Baliles to Run for Mayor

Follows news of other candidates emerging and declining.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 5:09 PM

City Councilman Jon Baliles is running for mayor. The confirmation comes after months of speculation, and follows School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne’s decision to not run.

In his announcement, released today, Baliles says that he’s a strong supporter of Richmond Public Schools and notes his vote to shift $9 million in additional funding to the division for the current fiscal year.

Baliles is the son of former Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles, who served from 1986-1990.

The current list of declared potential candidates also includes community activists Alan Schintzius, Rick Tatnall and Lillie Estes, as well as City Council President Michelle Mosby, Richmond Public Schools teacher Chad Ingold, former councilman and architect Bruce Tyler, former delegate Joe Morrissey and architect Lawrence Williams.

Also in the running, though yet to make his candidacy public himself, is Venture Richmond President Jack Berry. He recently announced his resignation from Venture Richmond, after which a tweet from the organization wished him well in the race.

Williams, a 63-year-old Church Hill native, discussed his candidacy in the Times-Dispatch. He ran for mayor twice -- once against former Gov. Douglas Wilder and the other against Mayor Dwight Jones. He captured less than 2 percent of the vote both times.

Most of the candidates plan to attend a mayoral forum organized by Wilder on Wednesday. The deadline to officially file is June 14.

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